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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Plan, don't panic.

Mar 25, 2020 12:05PM ● By Melanie Wiseman

How you can help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Never before in my nearly 10 years of writing for the BEACON Senior News have I written and rewritten an article so many times. As information regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) changes constantly, it almost seems fruitless to write about it in a monthly magazine.

The BEACON, however, is dedicated to its readers, offering hope as we adapt to life’s many changes and transitions. This has never been needed more than during these challenging times of unknowns where anxiety, isolation and depression can rear their ugly heads.

Today’s seniors have survived wars, 911, the 1968 influenza A pandemic, 2009 swine flu, and much more—and have come out stronger and more resilient. No doubt we will overcome COVID-19 as well.

In the meantime, let’s plan, not panic. Here is the best local, practical information for maintaining “life as normal” while also keeping yourself and others safe.

Check your sources

The barrage of “breaking” news can spiral some of us into panic and fear. But like Franklin Roosevelt once said, fear is our worst enemy.

Opinions, commentary, rumors and hearsay may be more fear-based than factual, and are rampant online and on social media.

It’s crucial to screen where your information comes from and to remain calm.

“All of the information coming out about COVID-19 is like drinking out of a fire hose,” said Andrew Tyler, regional epidemiologist with Mesa County Public Health. “Our job is to take that information, synthesize it and put it back out in a more understandable manner.”

Tyler advised using the Centers for Disease Control (, Johns Hopkins Medicine ( and local health department websites for the best up-to-date information.

Here’s what we know:

• Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.

• The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, but the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

Plan, but don’t panic

Grocery stores are not in danger of closing. They will continue to serve the community through this crisis.

As Gov. Jared Polis has said more than once in his public addresses, there is no disruption to the supply chain, therefore there’s no need to swarm grocery stores, hoarding items and buying more than what’s needed.

“There is a surplus of food in the supply chain. Go less often, stock up a little bit. Simply go to the grocery store less so that less people are there at any given time,” Polis said during his March 22 news conference.

Many stores have implemented “senior only” shopping hours to give at-risk customers the ability to purchase items they need while avoiding busier and more crowded shopping times.

While there’s no need to over-purchase, make sure you have ample food, medications and supplies on hand so that you can limit trips to the store and reduce exposure.

Do the right thing

Once again, don’t panic, but don’t discount the seriousness of the situation either.

The health department’s greatest concern is that health care providers and first responders have the resources they need to protect themselves so they can continue to provide medical care.

“The norovirus outbreak last November prompted discussions and helped us prepare for COVID-19,” Tyler said.

It’s up to us to be responsible and do the right thing to help stop the spread of the virus. Wash your hands frequently, disinfect surfaces regularly, social distance yourself from others, and stay home if you feel sick.

Reasons to be thankful

We are fortunate to live in a state that’s responding proactively to the virus, and in communities where residents give so much of their hearts to help those in need.

Businesses, schools, churches, food banks, nonprofits and neighbors are stepping up to ensure that seniors, in particular, have the services and supplies they need. In Mesa County alone, grocery stores have hired 1,000 new employees to keep shelves stocked. Food banks, human service agencies and nonprofits have adjusted their services and put out a call for more volunteers, food and monetary donations.

Health department officials are coordinating with government agencies in nearby counties, in addition to medical facilities, school districts, home health agencies, and senior housing facilities.

“We’re in a unique, and in many ways, a good position being hundreds of miles from the nearest high-density metro area,” said Tyler.

Spend time outside every day

Just because the gym is closed, don’t stop exercising. Chances are your favorite instructor from the gym is leading a class on Facebook. You can also find free exercises on YouTube. Walk the Riverfront Trail (while remaining at least 6 feet distance between people), birdwatch, dust off your weights and exercise bike, walk the dog, plant a garden, and catch up on home repairs.

Exercise your heart

If you know a senior who doesn’t have a computer or smartphone, let them use yours so they can FaceTime or Skype with distant family. (Please use appropriate caution—clean and sanitize!)

Call or stop by to check on them, offer to cook for them or shop for them while following recommended cleaning and social distancing practices. Bring them a book to read (including this issue of the BEACON).

Even during difficult times, show kindness, smile and greet each other. After all, we’re all in this together.

What to do when there's nothing to do

Staying busy is the best way to fend off loneliness and depression. Even when you can’t leave your house, try these activities:

• Play card games, board games, or engage with friends online and via phone apps such as Words with Friends and Solitaire. (Walmart and Target are still open, and Amazon delivers!)

•  Practice or learn to play an instrument

• Read books or learn a language! Even though libraries are closed, a variety of online eResources and downloadable and streaming media are available, including ebooks and audiobooks through OverDrive, films through Kanopy, language learning through Mango Languages and more. (If you don’t have a Mesa County library card, you can get one at

• Send cards to friends and loved ones

• Tell jokes (follow the BEACON on Facebook and see this month’s Laughing Matters)

• Work in your yard or garden

• Give your house a facelift

• Take up a new hobby

• Foster a pet from a local humane society (Temporary fosters are needed at Roice-Hurst! Call 434-7337)

• Donate blood. Call St. Mary’s Blood Center to make an appointment: 298-2555

• Purge closets and the garage and get ready for a yard sale once this passes.

• Support local restaurants with takeout orders, and enjoy the food in whatever social distancing setting you choose.

For more information on COVID-19, contact:

Mesa County Public Health - 248-6900,

Montrose County Public Health - 252-4545

Delta County Health Department - 874-2172

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